County valuation up by more than $650,000 from 2002

Marion County valuation for property tax is at $91,287,761, up by $654,172 from last year, County Clerk Carol Maggard told the County Commission Monday.

Commission Chairman Howard Collett said it was good that the gain was made while the valuation of agricultural land went down slightly so that any tax gain isn’t riding on the back of the farm economy.

Maggard said figures she has been putting together from the appraiser’s office with new information on state-assessed property-such as utilities-shows that most of the gain appears to be made in residential property-a $834,000 gain, including rural residential.

She said personal property was down, utilities about the same, and oil and gas up slightly.

County Treasurer Jeannine Bateman said that 94 percent of property tax due this year has come in.

The commissioners have extended weekly meetings from the normal three hours to four hours in a nearly continuous flow of department heads on the agenda to try to cut budgets by 10 percent.

Many department heads have responsibilities that make budgeting at a certain figure difficult.

For example, County Attorney Susan Robson can’t know in advance how many autopsies her department will be responsible for or what they may cost, considering that those done in Sedgwick County for Marion County last year varied from $1,400 to $2,000.

She has saved on cell phone plans and paper costs, but commissioners overturned her low figure for contractual services at $9,000, changing it to what they deemed a “more realistic” $15,000.

JoAnn Knak, emergency medical services director, said having intravenous paraphenelia and oxygen on hand are simply life-saving supplies that have to be there, and she finds it difficult to know where to make cuts.

Michelle Abbott-Becker, communications and emergency management director, brought in a check for $3,611 from a State & Local Assistance Grant a little more typical in a department that stays flexible with grant receipts from federal emergency funds.

She also “can’t know in advance” what emergencies she may be called on that will require funds since it is “anybody’s guess” whether chemical spills such as those worked on in the past will cost up to $10,000 to clean up, or more.

Much of her funding depends on doing paperwork correctly and keeping pace with state requirements. But that can get expensive when her 3-year-old computers are already obsolete, and the state has upgraded, she said.

Abbott-Becker shares a responsibility common to county departments where a department head has specific funds from a source it is responsible to. In her case, it is 911 funds collected from phone taxes for communications.

Register of Deeds Faye Makovec has a technical fund from office receipts that she administers separately from the county general budget, and said, “I don’t know where I’d go without it.”

The commissioners approved her spending $3,420 with Great Plains as outlined as a function of that fund for two computers and a printer.

Dale Snelling, park director, with all the receipts collected at the County Lake, also operates outside most county budgeting with a lake budget this year at $144,000, with $39,000 of it coming from the county. The commissioners are discussing reducing that, but Snelling still expects to have a lake budget next year of around $177,000 including county outlays.

It’s not without personal sacrifice because he said he and his wife sometimes work in excess of 100-hour-weeks each with the busy lake season.

Then there are the problems of the big-budget road and bridge department where director Gerald Kelsey said gravel applications can be thinned only so much before road quality suffers.

Kelsey suggested commissioners might take another look at charging a fee for providing driveway culverts to new rural residents and farms as a way to add some revenue.

The road and bridge department also sometimes buys extras under the budget for the county that aren’t really part of its function like a county car, he said.

David Brazil, director for planning, zoning, sanitation and transfer station, suggested the commissioners might find savings in the cost of the comprehensive plan coming in at less expense than expected, perhaps as little as half what is expected.

But he also is uneasy about shaving vehicle expense down to basics like oil and grease, but leaving no room for major repair such as transmission replacement.

Brazil said the county may end up needing to replace a skid loader at the transfer station, and he is having the trailers there inspected for reliability and structure.

Bill Smithhart, noxious weed and household hazardous waste director, brought in the most routine part of the meeting on a bid for herbicides 2,4-D amine and MSMA going for a low bid of $1,870.40 to Ag Service at Hillsboro over a bid of $1,965 from Markley Service at Marion.

Appraiser Dianna Carter drew praise from commissioners with projections for budget in her department that meet the 10 percent cut.

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